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“It’s Time for Dodger Baseball”

Sandy Koufax

Sandy Koufax

We know them and love them : Sandy (Koufax), Steve, (Garvey), Davey (Lopes), Ron (Cey), Bill (Russell), Don (Drysdale), but what about Pop (Corkhill), Oyster (Burns), Hub (Collins), Adonis (Terry) and Needles (Foutz).  We recognize the first group of names as the true blue Dodgers of our immediate past, but those other names are early descendants having played on the Brooklyn teams that had many names. The Dodgers were originally founded in 1883 as the Brooklyn Atlantics, taking the name of a defunct team that had played in Brooklyn

before them. Then came the Brooklyn Bridegrooms (because so many team members were getting

Superbas

Superbas

married), then the Grooms, the Superbas (which I will now call the Dodgers after I’ve had more than one cocktail), the Robins, The Trolley Dodgers, before finally becoming the Dodgers.

The Dodgers greatest rivals are the Hated Ones (or Giants) of San Francisco.  Both teams moved to California in 1958 and while the teams were based in New York, the Giants won 5 World Championships (like saying the Egyptians made fine pyramids, it’s ancient history…..who cares) and the Dodgers just one. Since moving to modern times (west coast) the Dodgers have won 5 World Championships (there is no doubt that number will increase in the near future) with the Giants struggling to win 2.   Life goes on and as the ink dries on this paper the Los Angeles Dodgers Photo DayDodgers have a 15 1/2 game lead on the lowly last place Giants with the San Diego Padres desperately trying not to dip into the basement while pondering still another uniform change (Can you say branding?).  The Dodgers have had the same uniform for 70 years.

As we all know, rooting for your baseball team can be a cruel and fickle maiden, but listening to thehome-vin-scully honeyed voice of Vin Scully, (calling the Dodger games since 1950 …. “He’s a left handed batter and we understand his father makes wind chimes out of used toothpicks”) and loving the Dodgers, and the game of baseball, we are all lucky to be part of this wonderful ride of 2013.  Go Dodgers!

Groove.  Los_Angeles_Dodgers4

A Good Gesture Gone Bad, Real Bad

Henry Tandey

Henry Tandey

We make choices hoping they are the right ones, but sometimes even the grandest rights can turn into the most horrible wrongs. Helping a stranger then having your wallet stolen by him. Giving a hitch hiker a ride only to have him throw up in your car.  I have suffered these good deeds that turned into regrets, but that is nothing compared to what happened to Henry Tandey.

Henry Tandey had him in his sights. His Lee-Enfield rifle had not let him down once during World War I and it was a clean shot. Henry had won the Victoria Cross (the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy awarded to a British soldier) and numerous other medals making him the most highly decorated British private of the First World War. Had Henry been an officer there is little doubt that knighthood would have followed. It was at the battle at Marcoing, France in October 1914 that a weary German soldier wandered into Henry’s line of fire. The enemy soldier was wounded and did not make an attempt to raise his rifle. He stared at Henry expecting the inevitable. The twenty-seven year old Tandey choose not to shoot. “I took aim, but couldn’t shoot a wounded man” said Tandey, “so I let him go”. The

Hitler in WW1

Hitler in WW1

German soldier saw him lower his rifle and nodded his thanks before wandering off.  The twenty-nine year old German soldier was a Lance Corporal of the Bavarian Infantry Regiment. His name: Adolf Hitler.

Henry put the encounter out of his mind and rejoined his regiment, discovering soon after that he had won the Victoria Cross. In newspapers around England a picture of Henry carrying a wounded soldier after the Battle of Ypres was published.  It was a dramatic image which symbolized a war which was supposed to be to end all wars, and was immortalized on canvas by Italian artist Fortunino Matania. Leaving the army in 1926 at the rank of sergeant, Henry settled in Leamington, England where he married, settled into civilian life, and spent the next 38 years as a plant security chief at Triumph Motors, then called Standard Motor Company. He lived a quiet life and although regarded as a hero he rarely mentioned his participation in ” The Great War.”

The painting

The painting

In 1938 England’s Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain made his trip to Munich to meet Hitler in a last ditch effort to prevent World War 2 which resulted in the ill-fated  “Munich Agreement” (“Peace in our Time”). During that ominous trip Hitler invited Chamberlain to his newly constructed retreat in Berchtesgaden, Bavaria which was a birthday present from the Nazi Party. While there, Chamberlain found a reproduction of the Matania painting depicting Tandey carrying his wounded comrade. Puzzled by his choice in art Hitler explained ” that man came so near to killing me that I thought I should never see Germany again, providence saved me from such devilishly accurate fire as those English boys were aiming at us.”  Hitler seized the moment to have his best wishes and gratitude conveyed to Tandey by the Prime Minister, who promised to phone Henry upon his return to England which he did.  Tandey’s nephew remembers his uncle getting up to answer the phone and matter-of-factly returned  mentioning that the Prime Minister called and said that he just returned from seeing Hitler and he saw the painting and when Chamberlain asked why it was there Hitler commented ” that’s the man who nearly shot me.”

Things went sour for old Neville. His appeasement to Hitler was a major blunder, he lost power to Winston Churchill, and died of stomach cancer within 2 months. The Tandey / Hitler  story broke in 1940, but no one gave it much thought at the time. In 1940 Henry told a

Henry

Henry

journalist ” if only I had known what turned out to be. When I saw all the people, women and children he had killed I was sorry to God that I let him go.”

Henry died in 1977 at age 86 and had his ashes spread along side his fallen comrades at the British Cemetery in Marcoing, France. He must have been haunted as time revealed what a monster Hitler was and his act of great decency to a very indecent man was a strong example how a right can be made wrong. So here is to our rights staying rights and I think that is a toast worth drinking to. Groove.

Israel Bissell – Not a Jewish Vacuum Cleaner

bissellTalk about getting burned. Nobody got more toasted than Israel Bissell. And who was this fine gentleman? No, not a “Jewish Vacuum Cleaner”, but  a postal rider from Massachusetts who on April 19th, 1775 took off from Watertown, Mass. and for four days through five states Izzy warned the colonists of a invasion by the

Paul Revere

Paul Revere

British Redcoats all the way to Philadelphia, Pa. That is a total of 345 miles. Paul Revere only went 19 miles from Boston to Cambridge and ” the only person he could have warned was the Dean of Harvard University”.

What went wrong for Israel Bissell? His name. In 1860, America was on the verge of the great Civil War which severely dented the soul of this great nation and cost close to 700,000 lives.  American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was an abolitionist, very pro-union, and wanted to appeal to the Northerner’s paul-revere-by-wyethsense of urgency and a call for action. History favors the courageous (as does eating: first guy to eat a clam or a lobster ) and Hank wanted to get the word out and stir up the pro-union sentiments. (Don’t know how much Hank Longfellow stirred us with ” Song of Hiawatha ” except to make us drink more Hamm’s Beer.)  So Longfellow wanted to write a poem that would capture his opinion and capture this “hour of darkness and peril and need.”  The problem was that the name Israel Bissell just didn’t have the rhyming scheme nor the flair of Paul Revere. Remember that Hank is writing this poem some 85 years after the ride and people sort of forgot how it all went down. Even when Paul died in 1818 there was no mention in his obit about “His Historic Ride” just that he had a good business sense, made nice silver punch bowls, and was a cool guy.

So Paul Revere gets the nod, statues, junior high schools, rock bands (Paul Revere and the Raiders. I mean threally who could forget “Kicks” or “Indian Reservation ( the lament of the Cherokee Reservation Indian)” and what does Israel Bissell get? Maybe a country named after him or a vacuum company, but that’s a big reach. Perhaps just that we know Israel Bissell was a cool patriot and let’s think, what rhymes with Israel Bissell? Groove.

Again, I have stolen shamelessly. This time from Robert Wuhl “Assume the Position with Mr. Wuhl” which is great stuff.

Fake Legs and Chewing Gum – A Big Spread…

mexicofanMexico and I have always gotten along. This surely is not true for everybody, especially for those who ended up taking a bath in an acid filled 55 gallon drum, but for the last 47 years we still sing a good song. Perhaps it is because it is a country where inefficiency is a virtue, where the hurried are shunned, and where day drinking is applauded and encouraged. All this fits nicely into my wheel house.

To really understand Mexico let us look at one of its past leaders who resides in the g0a0000000000000000496459ec62c5038d700afc37a5c654e845735aaeBlack Pantheon of Guys who failed their Nation: Antonio de Padua Maria Severino de Santa Anna y Perez de Lebron, also known as Santa Ana or perhaps in some circles as just Santa. This guy lived a crazy political life having been named President of Mexico eleven non-consecutive times and was still at the end of his life, ready for a come back (we thought Bret Farve was bad).  He was the man in charge at the massacres at the Alamo (189 Americans killed including Dave Crockett and Sam Bowie) and at Goliad (executed 342 Texas prisoners) all in 1836.  Joel Pointsett (the first US minister to Mexico) called Santa Ana a “polecat in silk clothing” (Joel was an amateur botanist and would send back to the states the beautiful red flowered plant that now graces his name : the Pointsettia.)  A month after his wife died, Santa, now 50, married a 15 year old and attempted many coups and presidential runs, but after eleven shots in the high office the good people of Mexico had had enough. He was forgotten and unloved.

But that isn’t why I found interest in this madman in silk.  (By the way, he demanded to be called by his subjects the title “Most Serene Highness”.  I have no problem with that, having been called the same more than once.) In this case what interests me are artificial legs and chewing gum. A big spread I know, but Santa has his hat in the ring in both instances.

surrenderLet’s go back to the famous “French Pastry War” of 1838 to 1839. (not making this up.) What happened is that a French citizen living in Mexico City owned a pastry shop that was ravaged by some boozy Mexican officers after a night on the town and split without payment (who hasn’t thrown down a bunch of eclairs, croissants, and gaugeres after chugging Margaritas). The shop owner filed a claim which was quickly dismissed by Mexican authorities. He complained to the French embassy which appealed to the French government who issued a demand for 60,000 pesos from the Mexican government. (Which was a lot of dough back then (no pun intended), for 1 peso was the daily wage for the average worker.) The Mexicans said NO so the Frenchies invaded, thus started ” the French Pastry War,” and that brings us to Santa Ana.  Though disgraced from his defeat in Texas he was still the Main Man in Mexico ( M.M.M.) and he met the French invading army at Veracruz. There, he was hit in the leg by cannon fire, and had his leg amputated, which he buried at his hacienda. The war ends after 4 months – the French got their pesos, and headed back to France to their pastries. After the war Santa Ana arranged for a state funeral for his amputated leg which at that point  had been buried for almost 4 years. It was dug up, placed in a crystal vase, taken in a full military dress parade to Mexico City and buried beneath an elaborate monument in Santa Paula cemetery. The funeral involved cannon salvos, speeches, and poems in the general’s honor (we did similar things when our tortoise died last year). So the guy had to get a fake leg.

Let’s now jump to the Mexican-American War (1846-1848) and Santa Ana is fighting American forces at the Battle of Cerro Gordo. He

The captured leg

The captured leg

decides to take a breather and chow down on some fine roasted chicken.  His lunch is interrupted by the 4th Regiment Illinois Volunteers (led by a young Robert E. Lee, who 15 years later would command the Confederate forces in the Civil War) who swoop down upon the camp, somehow allowing the one legged Santa to escape (we have to assume by horseback or personal hovercraft), but he leaves behind his wood/cork fake leg and chest of gold coins. The volunteers turned in the gold, but keep the leg. Today, Santa’s fake leg resides at the Illinois

On display

On display

National Guard Museum in the town of Cerro Gordo, Illinois (used to be called Griswold, but because of the victory they changed the town’s name). There is a story that Abner Doubleday while stationed in Mexico during the Mexican American War used the fake leg as a bat to introduce his new game of baseball. This is not true, for Abner Doubleday had nothing to do with the invention of baseball (he is often credited with inventing the game, although he himself never made such claim and there is no evidence to support it. He is not in the Baseball Hall of Fame. However, while in San Francisco after the Civil War, he obtained the first patent for the cable car which he eventually sold.) The Mexican government has requested the leg be returned, but I don’t see this happening anytime soon.

And that finally brings us to Santa Ana and chewing gum. A fellow named Tommy Adams lived in Staten Island and was a photographer and glass maker, among other vocations. To make a little dough on the side he would take in boarders, and in this case it would be the irrepressible General Santa Ana doing some exile time away from Mexico.  Santa Ana was in possession of a large amount of chicle, a sticky substance that comes from the Mexican sapodilla tree, and suggested to Adams that he try to vulcanize it as a substitute for rubber.  Adams Adams-Chiclets-Gumtried to make toys, masks, rain boots, and bike tires out of the material, all failures. Preparing to dump the chicle into the East River, Adams popped a piece into his mouth and liked the taste. Chewing away, he had the idea to add flavoring to the chicle. Shortly after, he opened the world’s first chewing gum factory and in February of 1871, “Adams New York Gum No.1” went on sale in drug stores for a penny a piece.  He then added “Chic-lets,” “Black Jack,” and “Tutti-Frutti” to his line and was the first gum to be sold in vending machines. During the next year, Thomas Adams formed the “American Chicle Company” which merged the 6 largest chewing gum manufacturers and remained on its board of directors until he died in 1905. In America, over 195 million pounds of chewing gum is consumed annually.

santa-annaI don’t think Santa Ana got a dime from Tommy Adams, for the self proclaimed” Napoleon of the West” and the ” Most Serene Highness” died penniless in Mexico City in 1876 at the age of 82, but his replacement fake leg is being displayed at the National History Museum in Mexico City, so in a twisted sense his legacy lives on. On the other hand, Bruce says “everything dies baby that’s a fact, but maybe everything dies someday comes back” so if you are walking down the street and see a one legged  Mexican chewing gum wearing silk yell out “Hey Santa” and see what reaction you get.  Groove.

Rum makes a fine hot drink, a fine cold drink, and is not so bad from the neck of a bottle…Fortune magazine 1933

The Villa de Sergie

The Villa de Sergie

I love rum. My taste for the sultry fluid started many years ago when I was a guest at the Villa De Sergie, a magnificent abode filled with uncommon treasures, down in Puerto Vallarta where Daiquiris were blended with 108414-343x500-Classic_frozen_Daiquirideft hands to create a superbly delicate compound as a prelim liquid that would send us off into the evening. Rum, which is the pillar of Daiquiris goodness, is a dangerous agent which bows to the power of a contemptuous indifference to fate, sets the mind and body free of responsibility, obliterating memory of today and tomorrow, gives an adventurous feeling of superiority, vanquishes all fears and doubts, and in some cases allows the consumer to change his name, or at least add a new one.  Could a liquid be any finer ?

My favorite rum concoction is not the Mai Tai, Planters Punch, the Zombie, the Kid Fizz or the Mojito – though it will be a cold day in hell when I deny myself the pleasure of throwing any of these down, though the sweetness of these tropical drinks reminds me of Donny and Marie concert. My favorite is the straight Anejo Barcardi rum and soda water with 3 limes. This cocktail has many names such as the La Fonda, the Oh How We Danced, and the  Los Mismos. The later name came from Cuba in 1899 when the drink swept both Cubans and Americans off their feet at the fabulous Cosmopolitan club when one Cuban customer ordered a Bacardi and seltzer and his buddy said  “Lo Mismo” which is to say “the same” in Spanish. The Americans, eager to try something novel, also ordered “Lo Mismo”, found it much to their liking and ordered round after round of Mismos and brought the drink

The Las Rocas pool

The Las Rocas pool

back to stateside. I personally discovered it while touring with the Great Diego Despues down south of the border looking for venues that could handle the raucous ways of The Nick Talent Full Throttle Wide Open Golf Tournament. Sipping our Mismos, over looking the pool of the Las Rocas Hotel which was filled with fun and danger, we both agreed that we had found our venue and found our drink. For the next twenty years we made history.

Old-Rum-BottleGrog, which is basically rum diluted by water with occasional citrus to prevent scurvy, is associated with the bad boys of the seas: Pirates. But in reality, Grog came well after the Happy Days of the likes of Capt. Morgan, Blackbeard, and other pirates.  In 1740, the British Navy would issue a daily dram of grog as a moral booster to the swabs and it was unknown what was the strength of the concoction. The Sikes hydrometer, which measured alcohol content, was invented in 1816, but prior to that the alcohol content was determined by mixing the spirit with a few grains of gunpowder then subjecting the grog to the focused rays of the sun under a magnifier. If the gunpowder managed to ignite, but the liquid didn’t flare up, this was “proof” of its proper alcohol content.  Even diluted, the grog ration was the equivalent to about five cocktails per day and by the 1950s only a third of the British sailors took advantage of their grog tot.  As naval operations became more PirateRum-1complex with computers and missile systems, the daily grog rations made less sense than when all the sailors had to do was haul around  buckets of tar. Finally, on July 31, 1970, what is known in British naval circles as Black Tot Day, the final ration was given to the British sailors. With black arm bands, heavy hearts, and a 21 gun salute – the Grog rations were over after 325 years.

Now Rum comes in “Jolly Rancher” like flavors with the marketing pointed to the youth of America, which at best is a disturbing trend. One out of every 3 bottles of rum sold is one of those sickly sweet artificially flavored nightmares with “tropical” counterfeit  flavors such as mango, pineapple, and banana which has as much in common with “tropical” as Glade air freshener does with an Alpine meadow.

images-1Capt. Morgan rum is the number 2 rum in the world (Bacardi number 1) which accounts for one-third of the billion dollar rum market. It was introduced in the U.S. all the way back in 1949 by Seagrams and is now owned by Diageo which is the largest producer of liquior in the world. Other Diageo brands include the best selling vodka in the world Smirnoff, the two top Scotches Johnnie Walker and J&B , the leading stout Guinness, and the number 1 liqueur Baileys Irish Creme. The ten largest producers of booze in the world own 70% of all liquor brands and that concentration is sure to rise.

Let us remind ourselves that rum needs to be consumed if we want to advance as a society and I take this position as a volunteer to lead, drink, and travel the seven seas to spread its word.  I am a tippler who among sailors, bridge builders, spreaders of all imagespleasant forms of lark, soldiers of good fortune, marauding beserkers, priests, and other disreputable sorts, promise to spread the groove of rum wherever needed. Like right now.  Remember, if everyone follows the rules, in the end it will lead to chaos.  So drink more rum, break more rules – otherwise chaos will reign. Groove.

Again I stole this material from a wonderful book called  “And a Bottle of Rum” by Wayne Curtis which was given to me by my sister Goldie who I have known personally for 60 years. What a gal! (something our Dad would say)

How Dry We Were

large_gangster-prohibition-silhouette 2I always thought I would be a better gangster than a spy.  I think my weaknesses could be easily exploited as a spy and my general attitude is closer to a gregarious Highwayman than a secret operative.  One thing is certain, if one’s goal in life was to be a gangster, Prohibition (1920 -1933) was the time to shine.Prohibition

Prohibition turned this country upside down. It started an avalanche of change in areas such as international trade and speedboat design; turned moonshine running in large engined stock cars into the nascent of NASCAR; brought in the social aspect of home drinking, dinner parties and women drinking in establishments (during Prohibition that meant speakeasies. Prior to Prohibition women were not welcomed in saloons);  provoked the start of the first nationwide criminal syndicate;  fundamentally changed the role of the Federal government; and generally changed the way we live.

prohibition-repeal-1933-grangerWhen Prohibition grabbed the throat of the American public in 1920, it produced many strange bed fellows.  It’s supporters included organizations that embraced the dry side of life such as the Coca-Cola company (founder Asa Candler thought that no booze would mean more people would be rotting their teeth with his product);  the Woman’s Suffrage movement (Susan B. Anthony gave her first speech to a group called Daughters of Temperance); theatre owner Lee Shubert (who longed for the Broadway bars to empty and their occupants to fill his theatres); most Southern Democrats (Dem. Representative John Newton of Arkansas tried to make the case that Prohibition would bring an end to southern lynchings, for fewer black men would commit horrible crimes if liquor was unavailable); the Baptist and Methodist clergy (“under slavery the Negroes were protected from alcohol and consequently they developed no high degree of ability to resist their effect); three-time presidentialUnknown-2 candidate William Jennings Bryan (the great attorney and notorious “wet” Clarence Darrow called Bryan”The Idol of All Morondom”); and the Ku Klux Klan – who were anti-Jewish (hated the likes of the Canadian Bronfman family’s Seagrams Empire), anti-Catholic (they called the Catholic Church “the Mother of ignorance, superstition, intolerance, and sin) and anti-immigrant (hated foreign German brewers such as Busch, Pabst, Hamm and Schmidt).

The beer brewers were fighting the strong arm of Prohibitionists by representing themselves as honorable providers of nourishing beverages for the working class. Some attempted to assign to beer the virtues of Mothers milk. A beer advertisement depicted a handsome women cradling a baby in her left arm and gripping a stein in her right with the slogan “Lager’s amber fluid mild,/Gives

Adolphus Busch

Adolphus Busch

health and strength to wife and child”.

The fiercest advocate of the brewers anti-Prohibition campaign was the most accomplished man in the industry, Adolphus Busch. The youngest of 21 children of a prosperous Rhineland merchant, he came to the States in 1857, fought for the Union army in 1861, went into the brewery supply business, and at the age of 22 married 17 year old Lilly Anheuser, the daughter of one of his customers.  Adolphus soon took over the management of his father-in-law’s business and in time changed the name to Anheuser-Busch. Busch was a true visionary in the way that he saw the brewery business as the core of a

6492543417_4d5a0a4fba_zvertically integrated series of businesses. He built glass factories and ice plants. Got into manufacturing refrigerated rail cars and truck bodies which were then used by his pal Phil Armour of the meatpacking family. He pasteurized his beer which allowed him to ship it long distances. He paid a million dollars for exclusive U.S. rights to a novel engine technology developed by his countryman Rudy Diesel. In 1875 Busch produced 35 thousand barrels of beer; by 1901, mostly because of his new light lager he named for the Bohemian town of Budweis, he surpassed a million barrels. The guy spoke 5 languages, had very cool facial hair, built huge pads in St.Louis, Pasadena, Cooperstown, and in Germany. When He and Lil celebrated their golden anniversary it was celebrated in 35 cities. Oddly enough, he never drank his own beer, referred to it as ” that slop,” and drank wine instead. Adolphus Busch died at the age of 74 of cirrhosis of the liver.

Eliot Ness

Eliot Ness

Another cat who  was involved in the booze trade was Eliot Ness, but he was on the side of the bad guys (he wanted to stop the flow of booze).  When most think of a “Prohibition Agent,”  Eliot Ness comes to mind with images of Bob Stack  from the “Untouchables” TV series that ran from 1959 to 1963 (and countless reruns.)  Stack was the star of the show, but during it’s 4 year run such co-stars as Peter Falk, Leeimages-2 Marvin, Babs Stanwyck, Marty Landau, Telly Savalas, Jack Klugman, and many others shared the screen with Bob) or Kevin Costner (from the 1987 movie with the same name). Visions of Ness stopping Al Capone and his gang were mostly fiction developed by the media friendly Ness himself. The real Ness, though he was a minor annoyance to Scarface Al by raiding a few breweries with highly publicized events, he had almost nothing to do with the conviction and imprisonment of Al on tax evasion charges. Ness tried to become an FBI agent, but came up short.  He moved to Cleveland where he ran for mayor and lost by a 2 to 1 margin. Married 3 times, Eliot started hitting the bars jabbering about his crime fighting exploits and died in 1957 of a massive heart attack at the age of 54, a big boozer.

Al and Sonny

Al and Sonny

And from the GroovecentralLAWierdness File : Al Capone had one son, named Sonny, who was born with congenital syphilis, which his father contacted years before, (Wow, thanks

Dad.) who lived a peaceful non-crime life.  Sonny married, had 4 daughters, and lived in Miami. In high school he was friends and classmates with Desi Arnez who along with his wife Lucille Ball started Desilu Productions, which in 1959 produced the TV series ” The Untouchables.”

Prohibition was a failure in almost every respect imaginable. It encouraged U.S. citizens to be criminals and lie.  The balloon of hypocrisy was never so filled with hot air.  It deprived4305250880_694e86c07a_o the government of revenue, stripped the gears of the political system, and imposed unjust laws on our individual rights. It released the nasty confluence of bribery, blackmail, corruption, and lawlessness upon the good citizens of this country.  The only thing that Prohibition did successfully during it’s nearly 14 year reign: we drank less.  In fact Americans continued to drink less images-1decades afterward. In the years prior to Prohibition, average consumption of pure alcohol ran to 2.6 gallons per adult per year – roughly the equivalent of 32 fifths of 80-proof booze or 520 bottles of beer. The quantity was slashed by 70% during the first years of Prohibition. It started to climb as American thirsts adjusted to the new regime, but even Repeal did not open the spigots: the Pre-Prohibition per capita peak of 2.6 gallons was not again attained until 1973 (Nixon era).  It stayed that high until the current level of 2.0 gallons.

During the days of Prohibition there were no closing times, very little age regulations, and a sense of sneaky/fun tension with the pressure to drinkimages and keep on drinking. Now there are state by state codes, licensing and regulations on closing hours, age limits, and the distance from churches, schools, and hospitals. However, the hypocrisy continues to this day: The RepealAmendment-175Jack Daniels Distillery operation is in Lynchburg, Tennessee – which is a dry county  – so they can make the stuff there, but you can’t buy it there. Another example, Mississippi remained dry till 1966, but for years a 10% tax on illegal sales remained in place, which basically encouraged the state to encourage law breaking.

I say a toast to the demise of Prohibition is due next time you have alcohol in your hand. And let us hope and pray that that era and that type of thinking is behind us. Perhaps Prohibition proved the nation could not legislate personal morality and we should use these lessons when confronting similar situations. I shall drink to that.  Groove

I again borrowed shamelessly from a wonderful book called ” Last Call ” by a terrific writer Daniel Okrent. My apologies.

America Is The Only Country That Went from Barbarism to Decadence Without Civilization In between (Oscar Wilde)

1341885008_realitytvbreakups-15Couples, duos, partners, odd friendships. There have been plenty bizarro ones, some good and some bad.  I don’t mean like Flavor Flav and Brigitte Nielsen bad and I don’t mean like Hall and Oates good (though I never appreciated comments of my similarities to John Oates…. Please…John is 5 ft 4 “, that is 1.64 meters for our metric friends and I am at least 8 centimeters taller.)  No, I am talking about ones that don’t easily come to mind  – like the Liberal Lion, Senator Ted Kennedy, and the Conservative Elk of the Rockies, Mormon Senator Orrin Hatch; American showman Buffalo Bill and the flamboyant Irish poet and writer Oscar Wilde;  and the McDonald’s buddies, the Hula burger and the Filet-O-Fish.

Ted Kennedy was red faced and yelling at the top of his lungs.  Orrin Hatch pounded the Senate desk and waved histh finger at Kennedy in vitriolic disgust.  Then the time for debate expired and the two combatants shook hands and exchanged jokes.  Their laughter echoed in the chamber as they walked out slapping each others backs.  Thus was a typical day for Washington’s odd couple which ended with Teddy’s death on August 26th, 2009 of brain cancer.  You could not come up with more opposites: Ted Kennedy, Senator from Massachusetts, patriarch of one of America’s most powerful families, hard boozing, often embroiled in scandal, Harvard educated, and the shining star of liberalism.  Orrin Hatch, senator from Utah, mormon, super conservative, non drinker, non smoker, attended what he called the “Harvard of Utah, BYU”, and a pillar of the Conservative movement.  The press watched closely as these two titans argued, often compromised, and made many laws, as the two became unexpected best of friends.  “One of my motivations for coming to the Senate was to fight Ted Kennedy”, Hatch said.  In fact, Hatch said that to say Kennedy’s name was my very th-1best fundraiser in the country, noting they were antagonists for years.  Back in the day you were  allowed to smoke during committee hearings and according to Hatch you could tell when  the two were  fighting by the amount of cigar smoke that Kennedy blew in the direction of the nonsmoking Mormon.  He said they were forced to change in 1981 when Hatch became chairman of the Senate Labor Committee and Kennedy was the ranking Democrat.  Kennedy said the two found they often wanted the same general end results and they actually admired each other and their families.  Orrin sat with the Kennedy family when they buried the Kennedy matriarch Rose and Ted sat with the Hatch family when Orrin’s th-4parents passed away.  Orrin wrote songs for Ted’s second wedding and his funeral (one of Orrin’s songs is on the soundtrack for the movie Oceans 12). Orrin gave one of the many eulogies at Ted’s funeral and with a shaky voice he finished by saying “I deeply morn this great man and I will miss my Irish friend.”

th-6William Frederick (we share similar facial hair and same first 2 names) “Buffalo Bill” Cody and  Oscar Fingal O’ Flahertie Wills Wilde (we share nothing) could not be more different and are another example of history’s odd couples.  Buffalo Bill was the real deal: Army scout (won the “Medal of Honor” before Congress changed the rules in 1917), Pony Express rider, wagon train driver, Freemason, buffalo hunter, fur trapper, gold prospector, showman, started the town of Cody, Wyoming,  was good friend with Wild Bill Hickok and according to historical novelist Larry McMurtry (Lonesome Dove, Last Picture th-10show, Brokeback Mountain) Buffalo Bill at the turn of the 19th to 20th century was the most recognizable celebrity in the world.  Oscar Wilde: Flamboyantly gay Irish playwright, novelist (The Picture of Dorian Gray), poet, Freemason, known for his barbed and clever wit, spent 2 years in the “Big House” in England  for being convicted of “gross indecency” – the term for homosexual acts in contemporary British legislation,  was the most successful playwright of the late Victorian Age, and one of the great celebrities of his day.

Five years before Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, Oscar came to America to lecture on Aestheticism and the Decorative arts. He saw Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and became a fan and a friend of Buffalo Bill.  Oscar’s fame as the Oxford-articulated, effete intellectual allowed him to book nearly 150 engagements from New York City to Leadville, Colorado where a mine shaft was named in his honor (called The Oscar), and he was dropped by bucket deep into the shaft. Wilde said he hoped shares where included with the honor and to the surprise of the rough and tumble miners, he smoked cigars and drank their whiskey till morning light and was declared “a bully-boy with no glass eye”.  It was speculated that Wilde’s success in America may have prompted Bill’s Wild West Show to go to England.  On Bill’s impending visit Wilde wrote a piece called “the American Invasion” and wrote that “English people are always more interested in American Barbarism than American Civilization …The cities of America are inexpressively tedious…Better the far West with its Grizzly Bears and untamed Cowboys…This is what Buffalo Bill is going to bring to London; and we have no doubt that London will fully appreciate the show!”

Wilde introduced Cody to Henry Irving, a great actor in England and it was through Irving that Cody came to know the British Royals. It wasth-5 also through Irving that Cody’s credibility was enhanced above the stature of a circus-master and the avalanche of invitations from British nobility and the upper echelons of the art world poured in Buffalo Bill’s direction. Cody was also an object of jealousy by Irving’s alleged lover Bram Stoker who would go on to write Dracula. Over the next several years, Wilde’s star rose as did Cody’s.

It would be interesting to know what old Bill thought of Oscar’s trial for homosexuality and his subsequent conviction.  It started when he wildeanddouglasbecame seriously involved with Lord Alfred Douglas, whose Dad was the Marquess of Queensbury (yes, boxing fans, the guy who came up with the ” Queensbury Boxing” rules)  Anyway, the Marquess didn’t dig Oscar hanging out with his son Alfred even though Oscar was married with 2 sons (the English Way).  Lawsuits were filed, back and forth, and O was sure his fame would protect him. Nope, 2 years in prison and as you might suspect, prison did not serve Oscar well. Friends turned their backs, his wife changed her name, and Oscar died in obscurity in 1900 at the age of 46.  One of his last lines were ” My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has to go.”  Wallpaper wins again.

th-7Bill’s life worked out much better. He continued the Wild West groove and eventually wound that down. Didn’t really “Leave on top,” but pretty close. Died of kidney failure in 1917 at the age of 70. Upon his death tributes were made by King George V of the United Kingdom, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, and  President Woodrow Wilson.  Much better than battling it out with some wallpaper.

When Lou Groen opened the first McDonald’s in the Cincinnati area in 1959 business was tough especially come Lent.  The area was 87% Catholic and on Fridays he would bring in a total of about $50-$75 which wasn’t covering expenses. So Lou came up with idea which he stole from the local Bob’s Big Boy of putting a piece of deep fried halibut and a piece of cheese between a couple of hamburger buns. Lou decided to take it to corporate. Back in those days it wasn’t difficult to get in front of the main man of McDonalds, Ray Kroc and Ray, being Ray, wasn’t pleased with Lou’s sandwich. “You’re always coming up here with a bunch of crap” he told Lou. ” I don’t want my stores stunk up with the smell of fish.” Anyway, I have a much better idea. It’s called the Hula Burger.”filet062  This was Ray’s brilliant idea of the meatless burger, just grill a piece of pineapple, throw on a piece of cheese, squeeze it between two buns and there you have it. After much arguing Kroc decided they would put the two together on the menu at selected locations on Good Friday 1962 and whoever sold the most would stay on the menu.  Final tally: Hula Burger 6, Filet-O-Fish 358. So the Fish stays and the Hula is forgotten. They also tried for a mascot, Phil A. O’Fish, but like the Hamburgerlar, Phil was put to rest.  Now Mac’s sells 300 million Filet-O-Fish a year with 23% sold during Lent. In the eyes of some it was sad to see the Hula Burger and the Filet  break up, but one had to go.

I know all those sayings about the road to success (It’s not what you know, but who you know…or It’s not about who you know, but who knows you), but suffice it to say, I’d rather be sitting here with a cocktail watching the sun go down then humming an Orrin Hatch tune, eating a Hula burger, and getting into a knife fight with the wallpaper.   Groove.

Slippin’ On Your Travelling Shoes

th-15Travel…   I like to travel. Usually it’s a place with a great beach (Hawaii, Mexico) where my only decisions are whether to go into warm water or have another cocktail (usually the arrow points to the latter).  This is a very narrow view of the world, but has afforded me wonderful conversations with alleged heretics, blockade runners, utopian community leaders, scary men with dark initiatives, victims of shipwrecks, seedsmen, and midnight ramblers. Some of which I call my friends.

The word travel derives from the French word travail, meaning toil. Only in recent centuries has traveling come to be regarded as a recreational pursuit.  I don’t like to ” toil” and I don’t like to “pursue” unless it is for

a warm water beach and an excellent cocktail – so maybe a traveller I am not, but these following fellows surely are: John Ledyard, Richard Halliburton, and Duncan Hines (yeah, that Duncan Hines).  All three have travelled different paths, some with larger legacies than the others.

thJohn Ledyard was born in Connecticut in 1751.  Quit Dartmouth so he could “ramble more”.  Joined up with Capt. James Cook in the British Navy and saw the Cape of Good Hope, Tasmania, New Zealand, Tahiti, Hawaii, was the 1st US citizen to touch the western shores of the United States, toured Alaska, then the Bering Sea, back to Hawaii where Cook ran a foul with some of the natives and was stabbed to death, then all the way back to England.  Then on to Paris, where he conceived a bold scheme of exploration with the then American Ambassador to France, Tommy Jefferson, and was backed with dough from the Marquis de Lafayette, on a mission to explore the American continent by proceeding overland through Russia, crossing the Bering Strait, head south through Alaska, then across the American west to eventually Virginia. That is a lot of walking especially on a solo.  Sometimes I have trouble getting out of my chair and walking to the bar.

Well, Johnny didn’t make it. Went as far as eastern Siberia where he was arrested as a suspected spy on orders from  Cathy the Great and sent back to Poland, then eventually to London where he decided to walk from the Red Sea to the Atlantic ocean. Things don’t always work so well for some of those ramblin types and it didn’t work out so well for Johnny. While in Cairo, he accidentally chugged some sulfuric acid and did the big burnout from within (never a good way to go).  John Ledyard was buried in the shifting sand dunes lining the Nile, the location of his grave unknown today. Ledyard was described as a “mad, dreaming romantic” who in his day travelled to five different continents under the “common flag of humanity “.  This guy went the road less travelled and might have gone further if he laid off the sulfuric acid cocktails.th-2

Richard Halliburton was of the dashing sort. Very famous during his days, Richie made travel writing exciting with his globe trotting antics and dare devil deeds.  Born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1900, a well bred upbringing and the soft comforts of home could not contain him. “Youth– nothing else worth having in the world…and I have youth, the transitory, the fugitive, now, completely and abundantly. Yet what am I going to do with it?  Certainly not squander its gold on the commonplace quest for riches and respectability, and then secretly lament the price that had to be paid for these futile ideas. Let those who wish have their respectability – I want freedom, freedom to indulge in whatever caprice strikes my fancy, freedom to search in the furthermost corners of the earth for the beautiful, the joyous, and the romantic.” And Indulge he did.

th-7Halliburton rode an elephant over the Alps (he named her Miss Elysabethe Dalrymple), flew a crimson red bi-plane upside down over the Taj Mahal (he called his plane the Magic Carpet), dove into the cursed Mayan Well of Death in the Yucatan, swam the length of the Panama Canal (was charged a $0.36 fee), lived on Devils Island, enlisted in the French Foreign legion, took the chief of Dyak headhunters for a ride in his plane and received a gift of 100 shrunken heads for his effort, was the first to climb Mount Fujiyama in midwinter, had a long affair with screen idol Ramon Novarro, built a glass and concrete house above Laguna Beach called ” the Hangover house” in the 1930s which is stillth-5 there today, climbed the Matterhorn, and wrote about all his exploits in travel books and magazines which made him quite wealthy.

On March 3rd 1939 Halliburton began to sail a Chinese junk across the Pacific Ocean. The Sea Dragon was a th-8gaudily decorated 75 ft.ship that looked better than it floated, and was more properly suited for a ride at Disneyland than challenging the Pacific Ocean. Leaving Hong Kong in route to San Francisco with a crew of 7, the “Dragon” ran into a typhoon. ” Southernly Gales…Rain Squalls…Leeward Rail Under Water…Wet Bunks…Hardtack Bully Beef…Having Wonderful Time, Wish You Were Here Instead Of Me.” were the last words coming from the  Sea Dragon. The search turned up nothing. Richard Halliburton and crew had disappeared under the waves.  He was 39 years old.

Duncan Hines was a road weary traveling salesman who worked for a Chicago printer. By 1935 and at the age of 55 th-13Duncan had eaten a lot of good and bad grub across the US of A. Old Dunc and his wife Flo began assembling a list for friends of good restaurants around the country which became so popular he put the recommendations in a paperback and called it ” Adventures in Good Eating”. One such listing in 1939 read: Corbin, KY, Court and Cafe, open all year except Xmas 24 hr. service Sizzling Steaks, fried chicken, country ham Lunch $.50-$1.00 Dinner $.60 -$1.00  Good Eats ! Duncan claims he traveled 2 million miles across this great land and the phrase ” Recommended by Duncan Hines” became something to strive for. He started a newspaper article called ” Adventures in Good Eating at Home” with recipes acquired from the best restaurants he enjoyed. He even introduced Duncan Hines Bread to the world through the Durkee’s Bakery. Hines sold the rights to his name which was eventually bought by Proctor and Gamble. He never pretended to be a cake dude , but enjoyed the accolades of the most moistness of all the cakes. Big D died of the Big C at the age of 71.

th-18Moist cakes, shrunken heads, and sulfuric acid cocktails are all a big reach for me.  Now a traveller maybe I’m not, but I like three limes with my Anejo Rum and soda, warm water at my feet, and a good sunset. I sit having the docility of an old Springer Spaniel and in these days I am less excitable just more preoccupied. In  my tiny narrow view of the world – the world for the most part, is a beautiful place.  For me, these days, it’s perhaps more appreciated than trampled upon.  Groove.

Everyone Loves Stan

thAnyone  who has ever watched television has to groove on Richard Wayne “Dick” Van Dyke.  The guy is 87 years old, looks like a million bucks (ok…maybe $100 grand), is married to a 39 year old,th-10 was a news anchor at the ” CBS Morning News” in 1955 and Walter Cronkite was his reporter, is an honorary member of the Barbershop Harmony Society, appeared on an album with Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith, lived with Michelle Triola (who famously battled Lee Marvin in the “palimony ” case Marvin v. Marvin) for more than 30 years (not sure that’s a good thing), has had a career that spans 7 decades, th-2and claims in 2010 that  he was rescued at sea by a pod of porpoises (apparently they loved Dick’s version of ” Chim Chim Cher-ee ).

Like many great comedians, Dick’s idol was Stan Laurel of the great comedy duo Laurel and Hardy.  After Oliver Hardy’s death in 1957th-6 (something that friends say Stan never recovered from), Stan moved into the second floor of the Oceana oceana_5Apartments in Santa Monica (now the swank boutique Oceana Hotel on Ocean Blvd.)  There Stan would entertain a long list of admirers such as Peter Sellers, Jerry Lewis, Danny Kaye,  Marcel Marceau, and of course Dick Van Dyke.  Stan was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Oscar in 1961 and was offered a cameo role in it’s a Mad , Mad , Mad , Mad World (1963), but couldn’t bear to be on any stage without his partner Oliver (Babe) Hardy.

In 1965 Stan suffered a major heart attack and while minutes from death he told his nurse he would not mindth-4 skiing right at this moment. Somewhat taken back, the nurse replied that she wasn’t aware that he was a skier.  “I’m not, but I’d rather be doing that than this!” A minute later he died sitting in his armchair.

At his funeral, comedian Buster Keaton said ” Chaplin wasn’t the funniest, I wasn’t the funniest, this man here was the funniest .”  Dick Van Dyke gave the eulogy and was rewarded with Stan’s bowler hat by Stan’s wife. Dick th-7said that Stan told him “if anyone at my funeral has a long face, I’ll never speak to him again.”  Stan Laurel was 74 years old.

Comedy lightens our load and allows us not to take ourselves too seriously. So go throw a pie in someone’s face, give someone a hotfoot, and slip on a Mr. Bean movie.  Make sure it’s not my face, not my foot, and not at my house.  I wouldn’t find it funny.  Groove.

The Man Who Would Be King…of Abalonia

whiskey-on-the-rocksI think having a drink with someone is important and should be done frequently.  Sometimes you need to have 3 (I haven’t forgotten you Nelson), but the number is only important when you consider who is across the table from you.  Good stories usually dribble out – sometimes tales of bad behavior, sometimes delicate dreams that held sway in longing hearts that were then torn asunder.  Perhaps a combination of truth and lies from the hidden caves of misery or the joyful fountains of happiness.  Or it could mean being drowned in a torrent of repeated endless jabber by one who is over-served and your only wish is for some terrible medical emergency to envelope this person or at worst, envelope yourself.

Joe Kirkwood, Jr.

Joe Kirkwood, Jr.

I want to have a drink with Joe Kirkwood, Jr.  Not because Joe and his Dad (Joe Sr.) became the first father / son to make the cut at the US

Open Golf Championship in 1948.  Not because Joe starred in eleven “Joe Palooka” films and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  I want to have a drink with Joe Kirkwood because he tried to build his own country on top of a shallow seamount  100 miles directly west of San Diego called Cortes Bank.  The Bank rises from a depth of more

Joe Palooka

Joe Palooka

than a mile, up to the shallowest peak, called Bishop Rock, a mere 3-6 feet from the surface depending on the tide.  It is here where some of the biggest waves on earth, some 60′, 70′, 100′ high, rise from the depths and it is here where Joe wanted to sink a 334 ft. concrete ship weighing five thousand tons, surround it with huge boulders from a quarry in Ensenada, and become King of the country of Abalonia.  Joe and his pals were nation builders and what is amazing is not that these Founding Fathers of Abalonia failed, but how close they came to succeeding.  Sit down Joe, I’m buying.

Joe and his confederates assembled at the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach on Nov.13th, 1966 and were ready to shove off.  Joe showed up in pressed pleated khaki trousers, a cashmere sweater, and a pair of fur apres-ski boots. Perfect wear for sinking a ship, placing boulders in the middle of the ocean, and declaring your throne.  There were 3 ships involved: the concrete 334 ft. Jalisco which was being towed by tug to Cortes Bank from San Francisco after being purchased for $80,000, the Rainbow’s End which was the center of communication control, and the Polaris which was given the job of coordinating the five barges of large boulders being brought up from Ensenada.  The general plan was to scuttle the Jalisco atop Bishops Rock in shallow water and surround the ship with ever expanding rings of boulders so she could be used as a seafood processing factory.  Joe and his crew figured that international maritime law would allow them to become the rulers of their own nation because Cortes Bank was in international waters.

As the strange flotilla was trying to gather, Kirkwood’s plan hit the news and drew the attention of the city San Diego, the U.S. Army Corpsth-9 of Engineers, and U.S. Attorney Edwin Miller.  Was Joe a commie sympathizer who wanted to set up his own private Cuba with missiles pointed at the Hotel Del Coronado?  What if the Abalonians decided to restrict fishing in their newly claimed territorial waters? What if Joe got together with the Mob Guys in Vegas and set up a casino?  Many questions and no answers.  It was calm as a pond, glassy, with no swell as the boys started to move the Jalisco in position on Bishops Rock.  No one seemed to notice that the horizon to the west had started a see-saw motion very slow and at a great distance.

Surfer at Cortes Bank

Surfer at Cortes Bank

A marine layer now encircled the process adding a ghostly pale to the proceedings. The Jalisco was in position and the sinking had started. What had also started was that the Jalisco was being enveloped by long, low-frequency forerunners that formed the leading edge of a huge North Pacific swell.  As the outer edge of the swell swept past the Jalisco the waves encountered something they hadn’t encountered since they felt Hawaii – an immovable object that is Cortes Bank. The wave’s energy now was compressed and could go nowhere but up.  The Jalisco now climbed and sharply dropped with her hull banging like a deafening gong. The sets continued with the waves increasing in size.  The men on the Jalisco had to leave and they had to leave now. Their only hope would be a lull in the giant sets. The men dove overboard and were yanked out of the water by the crew of the Rainbow’s End. Everyone left the Jalisco, that is, everyone except Joe Kirkwood who clutched the forward mast. The men on the Rainbow’s End watched as the water below the bow of the stricken Jalisco was drawn down and then gathered into a beautiful blue green nightmare that loomed above the Jalisco some 50 feet in the air with fish inside

Joe hanging on to the Jalisco

Joe hanging on to the Jalisco

the wave plainly visible.  It exploded on the Jalisco and sent poor Joe flying off the ship still wearing his fur after-ski boots.  Kirkwood tumbled some 200 yards down the trough of the wave and miraculously ended up just feet from the tug boat and was successfully plucked from the sea.  After more waves, the entire superstructure was torn completely off the Jalisco with a mingling of water and steel.  The Jalisco was gone and so were the dreams of the Nation of Abalonia.

The Jalisco going down

The Jalisco going down

The Jalisco split into 3 pieces of sharp jagged steel which makes surfing this inhospitable place that much more dangerous. Surfer Mike Parsons in January 2008 caught a documented 80 foot wave at Cortes Bank with the skeleton of the Jalisco below him.  In 1985 the gigantic aircraft carrier USS Enterprise wandered to close to

Parsons at Cortes Bank

Parsons at Cortes Bank

Cortes Bank putting a 60 foot gash in her outer hull, ripped-off her port keel, and

severely deformed her outboard port propellers.  She continued operations and her captain was relieved of his duties.

By my calculations Joe Kirkwood Jr., whose whereabouts are unknown, is about 93 years old.  But Joe, if you are out there, let me buy you a couple and you can tell me about being the King of Abalonia. Do you still have those boots?

If you get a chance please read the book “Ghost Wave” by  Chris Dixon. A wonderful book about Cortes Bank which I borrowed and stole from. Thanks Chris.   Groove.

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